Money matters worry Mitchell

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:44 AM ET

Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell may be new, but he is no shrinking violet when it comes to speaking his mind.

Mitchell threw down the gauntlet yesterday, challenging the team's ownership to dig deep into its pocket and allow the Raptors to carry the full complement of 15 players this season. NBA teams can carry only 12 players on the active roster, plus up to three on the injured list for a maximum of 15.

Mitchell would like Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. to allow the Raptors to carry 15 -- extra money in salaries be damned.

His primary reason for making such a statement is the fact that he does not want to have to waive some of the younger players on the team before the Nov. 3 regular-season opener.

The Raptors have carried 15 players in the past, mainly because of injury problems, but Mitchell would like to carry 15 even if everyone is healthy. As there is no minor-league system where NBA teams can send signed players for development, waiving a player usually means losing that player and Mitchell does not want to risk losing young players he covets, particularly second-round draft picks Pape Sow and Matt Bonner, both forwards, and second-year guard Roger Mason Jr.

"If the rules say you can carry 15, then I think you should carry 15," he said prior to Toronto's 108-103 pre-season loss to the Philadelphia 76ers at the John Labatt Centre in London, Ont.

"If you don't have 15 guys that you're in love with, then you don't have to do that," Mitchell said. "But we have 15 guys we feel pretty strongly about. And some of those guys are young guys (without guaranteed money)."

The Raptors currently have 17 players on the roster and will have to cut at least two. Mitchell can live with that, but he'd be very disappointed to have to cut more than that.

"I'm excited about all our young guys, Roger, Pape, Matt, Hof (Rafael Araujo), they've got a chance to be excellent basketball players," he said. "They're like basketball junkies. That's what you want, you want guys who have a passion for the game, and they do."

Mitchell said it would be a shame to have to cut a player who has a lot of promise, simply because there is no room for him on a 12-man roster.

Whether MLSE listens to his plea will not be known until cut-down day on Nov. 2. General manager Rob Babcock would not comment on Mitchell's statements yesterday, saying only that the first order of business is to decide on the roster, and then decide on how many players to keep.

ROOKIE CONCERNS

The coach is particularly worried about losing Sow, a 6-foot-10 rookie who brings incredible rebounding skills and athleticism but may not be ready to receive regular NBA minutes at this point. Babcock once referred to Sow as "a poor man's Ben Wallace".

"He'll stick on this club if we have the money and the wherewithal to keep him," Mitchell said. "We definitely want him, there's no doubt about it. But at the end of the day, it's going to come down to a decision by Rob and the owners."


Videos

Photos